Since we have been using social media, we’ve come across a number of resources which may be informative if you are thinking of taking this step. These are not exhaustive and by listing them we are not suggesting these are definitive guides. Obviously we can take no responsibility for the content of external sites.
If you are tweeting as a health professional, you should know and adhere to your professional body’s ethical guidelines and policies, some of which include reference to use of social media.
Understanding Social Media in Mental Health
Social Media in Mental Health Practice: A practical guide for health and social care practitioners working in mental health services is a publication written by Victoria Betton and Victoria Tomlinson, and published in 2013 by Leeds & York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. This provides lots of information on the basics of social media and its application in mental health services. Chapter 5 provides some useful tips on on getting started in social media.
More on Getting Started
In a longer video, Anne Marie Cunningham, a GP and Primary Care Clinical Director, provides a comprehensive and helpful overview of the value of social media for health professionals in “Collaborating and Connecting Online” in this video from Stanford University’s Med X in 2014.
Just what is the point of health professionals in social media? includes the transcript of an earlier talk by @Markoneinfour at #expo14NHS on social media and public professionals. Mark is a director of Social Spider CIC, a former writer-in-residence at the Centre for Mental Health, and a vocal advocate on use of social media as a tool for people-led innovation in mental health.
Professional Guidance on Use of Social Media
As cognitive analytic therapy practitioners come from a range of different core professions, practitioners can include nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, drama therapists, art therapists, music therapists, counselling psychologists, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, general practitioners and other health professionals. We have included below guidance on social media from a number of different professions. Please let us know if any of these become out-of-date, or if there are other useful resources you have come across.
Health & Care Professions Council:
The HCPC published updated guidance for regulated professions on how to use social media in a way which meets their standards, in September 2017. It also published ‘top tips’ and a series of case studies giving examples of ways that registrants’ use of social media may or may not meet those standards.
It is expected that in their social media activity, HCPC registrants will communicate appropriately, be honest and trustworthy, respect confidentiality and maintain appropriate boundaries.
Their top tips are encouraging of appropriate use of social media, and acknowledge that many registrants find it beneficial. They also encourage:
- being thoughtful about what you post, with the assumption that this may be read and shared openly
- considering privacy settings on your social media accounts, and the limits of these
- keeping in mind appropriate professional boundaries in communications with people who use services, carers, and colleagues
- maintaining confidentiality of service users, including avoiding posting anything which could identify them unless they have provided permission
- using your professional judgement to avoid posting material which would be offensive or inappropriate (if in doubt, don’t post it)
- following your employer’s social media policy, and
- seeking advice if you are unsure about any aspect of your use of social media
The updated guidance was informed by a public consultation in 2016. The results of this were summarised in a lengthier document which you can read here.
A number of individual professional bodies have published guidelines for their members which are informative.
British Psychological Society 2012 Ethics Committee Supplementary Guidance on the Use of Social Media
Updated Practice Guidelines (3rd edition) for psychologists were published in August 2017, and include a section on “Working in the Digital Age”.
Royal College of General Practitioners 2013 Social Media Highway Code
General Medical Council 2013 Doctors’ Use of Social Media
The British Medical Association have updated their guidance in 2017 and this is collated on a webpage on the Ethics of Social Media Use here.
British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy publish Guidance on the Use of Social Media
More detailed guidance for BACP members is available at Good Practice in Action 040: Frequently Asked Questions: Social Media (audio and video) and the counselling professions prepared by Dr Nicola Davies
We understand that the UKCP is in the process of drafting guidance for its members.
British Association of Social Workers 2018 BASW Social Media Policy
The College of Occupational Therapists publishes a guide on social media use available at this link
Nursing & Midwifery Council 2015 Guidance on Using Social Media Responsibly
Other relevant articles
Aaron Balick, a London-based integrative psychotherapist, published an informative article in 2017 on the topic of developing a digital policy as a psychotherapist. This was written for a private practitioner audience but highlights many issues relevant to NHS staff also. He refers to his own digital policy which can be seen at this link.
Dr Keely Kolmes, a US based psychotherapist, has written extensively on dilemmas and guidelines in relation to social media. You can access a collection of these at Articles for Clinicians Using Social Media
Cooper A & Inglehearn A (2015) Perspectives: Managing professional boundaries and staying safe in digital spaces Journal of Nursing in Research 20(7) 625 – 633. This is an informative article written by a general nurse and a mental health nurse who are leaders in use of social media for health professionals.
If problems arise
If you are subject to any sort of online abuse on Twitter, check out advice, supports and guidance offered on pages here as a first step.
Help us build this page
If you are aware of updates to the resources listed here, or you’ve come across resources that have helped you make use of social media, and think would be useful additions to this page, please do let us know.
Last updated April 2020